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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Ukraine Liveblog Day 147: Ukrainian Forces Retake Several Villages Around Lugansk

Publication: Ukraine Liveblogs
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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russian Helicopters May Be On The Move, But No Evidence They're Near The Border
We've been tracing an interesting report, a video that claims to show Russian helicopters flying toward the Ukrainian border near  Losevo, Pavlovsky District, Voronezh Region (approximately here on a map):

Dramatic video. However our staff has spent hours looking for terrain like this in the area. We haven't found it. The highway is completely different in this area.

However, that may be because the video was taken elsewhere.

In fact, that area is a very close match, and while we have not located the exact location where this video was taken, we're fairly confident that this is a match.

So the helicopters may have been filmed flying west, which is definitely in the direction of the Ukrainian border, but this is a long way from the border. It may be evidence, however, that the Russian army is mobilizing to the west. There's certainly other evidence that suggests that. But as of now, we haven't seen any videos that suggest a move across the border is immediately imminent.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Lugansk 'Practically Completely Surrounded' By Ukrainian Forces

Gazeta.ru has more on the fight for Lugansk (translated by The Interpreter):

From all accounts, Lugansk is completely blocked from the west and south, the Ukrainian Army has cut off the connection along two main highways connecting Lugansk to Donetsk. Now the main action is unfolding toward the north of the city, near the village of Metallist. "The ATO forces have liberated Aleksandrovsk, Beloye, Roskoshnoye, Sabovka from the terrorists and are waging a battle for Metallist in the Lugansk Region," the ATO press center reported on Twitter.

As of this writing, the Ukrainian military has announced the seizure of Metallist. According to Ukrainian journalist Petro Shuklinov, "Lugansk is practically completely surrounded, the terrorists have only one corridor, toward Krasnodon." This city is to the southeast of the regional center, on the highway toward the Ukrainian-Russian border.

However, tonight battles were still raging there. "A battle at the Izvarino checkpoint, near Krasnodon. Ukrainian military are trying to break through across the Uralo-Kavkaz toward the eastern quarters of the city," said the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic press service. Thus, the Ukrainian forces are trying to take the city in a total circle, cutting it off from the border of Russia.

This morning the SBU anti-terrorist center reported that some of the militia were retreating from the area of Lugansk Region toward the border with Russia. But the LPR leadership could not confirm this information. For their part, the separatists announced the latest knockdown of a plane from the Ukrainian Air Force; however they did not cite any details. There were also reports of two SU-25 fighter planes shot down which fell on territory under control of the National Guard.

Shell fire from Ukraine has landed on the home of the border town of Donetsk in Rostov Region, killing one man. Vladimir Putin, in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed extreme concern about the assault by the Ukrainian Air Force, RIA Novosti reported.

Immediately, reports appeared in the media about retaliatory pinpoint strikes being prepared against Ukrainian territory by Russia. But Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov called them nonsense.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
The Fight For Lugansk Intensifies
The fighting in and around Lugansk is intensifying as Ukraine's military closes in on the separatist headquarters.

As we reported earlier, a series of villages around the town have been partially or completely recaptured by the Ukrainian military in the last 24 hours.

Earlier there were reports that a separatist leader,  Aleksandr Mozhayev, AKA "Babay," deserted, but that claim is now disputed. According to a NoteRU.com report, partially translated by The Interpreter, representatives of Ukraine's armed forces say that a separatist convoy has actually left Lugansk and is headed toward the Russian border:

Representatives of Ukrainian armed forces announced that supposedly some of the militia have left Lugansk and together with armored vehicles have headed toward the Russian border. No confirmation of this information has come from the LPR itself, therefore there is a likelihood that the [Ukrainian] army is continuing its information warfare and planting rumors.

In fact, the militia gave a reason themselves for this. It is reliably known and confirmed by DPR militia commander Igor Strelkov that Aleksandr Mozhayev, known by the nickname "Babay," has quit the ranks of defenders of Novorossiya. Mozhayev himself has already written an appeal on the Internet in which he has announced a new recruitment to the first Cossack regiment.

This report is unconfirmed.Ukrainian authorities also reported separatists fleeing Lugansk, some in civilian clothes and vehicles.

What we do know however is that overnight fighting in Lugansk has been intense. Here is a video which reportedly shows some of the fighting though we have not confirmed its authenticity nor the location that it was taken.

This video reportedly shows destroyed Ukrainian armor, the result of an ambush by rebel forces outside of Lugansk near Lutuhyne, south of the village of Roskoshnoye which was recaptured by Ukrainian forces in the last 24 hours (map). The vehicles were reportedly ambushed during a raid launched by Ukrainian forces to open up the road to Lugansk airport just to the east. It seems that even as Ukraine advances the separatists have plenty of heavy weapons capable of doling out destruction and slowing down the Ukrainian ATO:

The Ukraine at War blog and Storyful's Rachael Kennedy estimate that this is the exact location of the convoy.

We believe that's a separatist fighter at the end of the video, indicating that the Ukrainian military's incursion was not successful, however there are reports that the airport has been recaptured so it's unclear what happened right after this ambush.

The narrator says that a "truck with mortars which exploded" was hit by an "ambush with RPGs." At one point what is described as an unexploded mortar is shown. He also says that there were bodies but that they had been pulled to the side and he did not record them so his video would not be removed by Youtube.

The Ukraine at War blog reports that this video shows fires burning at the Lugansk airport last night. We have not verified these claims, however. As we reported earlier, Ukrainian forces say that the separatists attacked the airport with GRAD rockets. The fires in a successive straight line could be consistent with that report.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russia Proposes OSCE Monitors at Border Crossings

The Russian Foreign Ministry has issued the following statement (translated by The Interpreter) in which they propose the deployment of OSCE monitors to the Donetsk and Gukovo border crossings:

Due to the sharp deterioration of the situation in the area where Kiev's security operation is being conducted in south-eastern Ukraine, the Russian side, as an act of goodwill, without waiting for the establishment of a ceasefire, is inviting OSCE monitors to the Donetsk and Gukovo border crossings on the Russo-Ukrainian border.

Today, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, S.V. Lavrov sent a letter to the President of Switzerland, the chairman-in-office of the OSCE, D. Burkhalter. At the same time, at the OSCE, Russia is introducing a draft decision of the Permanent council of the organisation on the deployment of monitors. We expect that this document will be approved as soon as possible.

We believe that this step will help create favourable conditions for the realisation of the objectives of a rapid cessation of violence, and the start of an inclusive and transparent all-Ukrainian dialogue, as set out in the Geneva declaration of April 17 and the Berlin declaration of July 2.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russian Stocks Dip, But Not Because Of Ukraine

The Russian MICEX is down about 1% today, but business analysts don't seem to be making any connection between the drop and events in Ukraine. Bloomberg reports:

The gauge lost 0.7 percent to 1,488.09 by 3:21 p.m. in Moscow after rising 0.7 percent last week. Lukoil, the nation’s second-biggest oil producer, fell 3.6 percent before adjusting for the payout and 0.7 percent after. Inter RAO slumped 4.5 percent after saying July 11 OAO Vnesheconombank will exercise a put option the power company can’t pay for without state aid.

Energy shares dropped 1.6 percent on average on the Micex, the biggest decline among nine industry groups. Some stocks have come under pressure in the past month as companies distribute dividends. Lukoil has a 14 percent weighting on the gauge, the second-biggest. Inter RAO said it may need government aid or to sell its stake in OAO Irkutskenergo to buy back 31.4 billion rubles ($918 million) of its shares from Vnesheconombank.

“Technically and psychologically, dividend cut-off dates are pressuring energy shares,” Aleksei Belkin, who helps manage about $4 billion as chief investment officer at Kapital Asset Management LLC in Moscow, said by phone.

That article mentioned Ukraine a total of zero times. 

As we've been reporting, the crisis in Ukraine did significant damage to the Russian economy for a time. Though the losses in February and March have since been corrected, the crisis has slowed overall growth in an environment where Russia's economy was already fairly stagnant. But despite damage done, investors don't seem to be paying any attention to what's going on in Ukraine. Russia's markets seem to believe that sanctions are inconsequential, open warfare will be avoided, and covert warfare will have no further consequences. They are back to worrying about the overall weakness in Russia's economy.

Of course, this all could change pretty quickly if the situation escalates significantly over the next week or so. There are signs that things could be escalating, but the Russian markets have seen this before, and for now they don't seem worried.

The Ruble, on the other hand, is losing value, and is down .4% against both the dollar and the euro. Again, Bloomberg reports:

Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian insurgents continued hostilities, with both sides accusing each other of an attack on residential apartments in Donetsk. U.S. President Barack Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said Russia must support a cease-fire, release all hostages, prevent the transit of weapons and fighters across the border and engage in a road-map for talks. More sanctions will follow if President Vladimir Putin fails to take those steps, they said.

“The armed stand-off continues without any signs of a peaceful solution to the conflict,” Dmitry Polevoy, chief economist at ING Groep NV in Moscow, said in an e-mailed note. Further economic sanctions are still on the table, “which reflects in the ruble’s rate,” he said.

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